Because I live on the opposite side of town, and the obvious way to reach the country to the west had been to follow the river catchment systems to the north, I’d been unaware of the village’s existence until a few weeks ago, when I discovered an alternative route back into town, which I described in Room for Further Improvement. In that report, I described a narrow path, about 1km in length, which led through an extensive area of farmland to the entrance to the wai (walled enclosure) that was the original village. This ‘through path’ is indicated by the red arrow on the following satellite image:
Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice a few other paths leading off the through path, and of course I wanted to know to where they might lead. However, rather than describe the exploration of these paths, I thought it better to describe the finished article, a bike ride that I’ve decided to call ‘ping kong ping pong’. This rather facetious name combines that of the village with the observation that one bounces around from path to path much like the interplay in a game of table tennis. But first a digression:
In Room for Further Improvement, I included photos of two road junctions, the second of which leads to the start of the through path. I’d chosen this road to follow rather than the first because having reached the end of the road I had been following, it was the first I came to. However, when I came back with Paula a few days later to show her what I’d discovered, I forgot that I’d gone down the second turning and took the first turning by mistake. I remember thinking, as we sped down a seriously steep hill, that I hoped we wouldn’t have to come back that way:
But we did! This road was a dead end.
Anyway, the key to ping kong ping pong is the multi-path junction indicated by the red circle in the satellite image above. The problem (because I like to frame these things as exercises in topology) is to traverse the four numbered paths in both directions. But only paths #2 and #3 connect directly to the through path. I needed a new path into the area. And I found a real beauty, which is where the ride now starts:
The yellow railings were an encouraging sign. They are there because after this initial ramp, the path contours across the hillside, with a dangerous drop to the left. And they would not have been erected if the path didn’t lead somewhere.
The path then becomes an alleyway:
…leading to a small quasi-industrial site.
However, it’s easy to find another path leading away from this site (the second photo was taken looking back at a bridge just crossed):
Path #1 comes in from the right, #2 from the left, #3 leads away on the left, and #4 away on the right. The next move is along path #4, although this is left after 20 metres or so to follow a gap through the trees indicated by the lowest point of the skyline:
By analogy with the concept of ‘off-road’, the route, while obvious, is distinctly off-path, arriving, eventually, at the dead-end road reached by the steep hill described above. You must have realized that the digression had a point, and although there really is no point in descending a hill merely to climb it again, when the hill is part of a circuit, I can’t not include it.
From the top of the hill, it’s a straightforward matter to reach the start of the through path, from where an obscure turn-off leads back to the multi-path junction. Next on the agenda is path #3:
The tin shack in the last photo is located on the through path, and the junction between it and path #3 (X on the satellite image) is shown in the next photo:
Path #3 is on the left, and the route turns left here, following the through path as far as the junction indicated by the yellow circle:
The through path is on the right in this photo. The path on the left leads to the village of Chung Chai Yuen, a small cluster of houses with narrow alleyways. However, before we continue, there is an oddity to point out. The photo was taken from the point of view of someone coming from Ping Kong, and if that someone’s destination really was Chung Chai Yuen, there is a much better path, also signposted, starting just outside Ping Kong. And if, as in this case, that someone was coming from the opposite direction, there is no clue on the reverse of the sign to the path’s destination.
This path is also one of the bumpiest and most broken I’ve encountered anywhere. This photo is of the junction indicated by the blue circle, which is in a much better condition than the overall average for the path:
The route comes in from the left and leaves on the right, but later in the ride (see below), the route approaches the junction from the third direction and leaves on the left.
And this is the entrance to the village:
By contrast with the bumpy path, the path that leaves the village is in excellent condition and is quite exhilarating to ride at speed (if you have the nerve):
The through path is then followed in reverse as far as X (the tin shack), followed by path #3 back to the multi-path junction. Path #2 is next. It is followed to a junction with the through path:
This photo was taken from the through path, with Ping Kong in the background. Path #2 comes in here from the left, and the route turns left towards Ping Kong. After about 50 metres, there is a signposted right turn towards Chung Chai Yuen (again only visible if you’re coming from the opposite direction), but instead of the path pictured above, this time the route follows a Drainage Services access path:
The path followed earlier can be seen in the background.
The route eventually negotiates the three-way junction pictured above on its way back to the through path, which is followed to the junction with path #2, also pictured above. This leads back to the multi-path junction for the final time:
All that is left now is to backtrack along path #1 and the path across the hillside to reach the point where it all started. Notice that although all the main paths have been followed in both directions, at no point is any path followed more than once in the same direction. That would violate my self-imposed rule for such exercises, which, as I explained earlier, I treat as topological problems, in this case to work out while cycling (the first time, at least). It all adds to the fun.